Sacramento-area synagogue arsons linked to a lone wolf

A San Diego-area man indicted for violating federal civil rights and hate-crime laws may have a connection to three Sacramento-area synagogue arsons in 1999.

FBI agents arrested Alexander James Curtis, a white supremacist publisher, Nov. 10 on charges of threatening and harassing, among others, a Jewish congressman, a regional director of the Anti-Defamation League and the Latino mayor of La Mesa.

The arrest of 25-year-old Curtis in his parents' bedroom in the San Diego suburb of Lemon Grove capped a two-year investigation of a white supremacist group he allegedly masterminded.

According to a Nov. 11 Los Angeles Times story, FBI agents said the material they seized as evidence included racist pamphlets, a framed picture of Adolf Hitler and a semiautomatic pistol.

Along with associate Michael Brian DaSilva, 21, Curtis is charged with three counts of conspiracy to violate civil rights, according to federal prosecutors. Curtis entered a plea of not guilty in San Diego federal court on Monday.

Also indicted alongside Curtis and DaSilva were Robert Nicol Morehouse, 53, and Kevin Christopher Holland, 22. Both men have pleaded guilty to lesser counts and aided authorities in the indictments of Curtis and DaSilva.

Jonathan Bernstein, San Francisco regional director of the ADL, characterized Curtis as an instigator for anonymous, "lone wolf" terrorist attacks.

"I think he kind of reflects where the hate movement is going in general," Bernstein told the Bulletin. "His emphasis on lone-wolf activities is something the hate movement has developed in the last 30 years to try to get people to act as individuals, so incidences of violence can't be tied back to the organizations. It makes it more difficult to track and prosecute these organizations."

Bernstein pointed out that Curtis' web of hatred may have influenced Benjamin Matthew and James Tyler Williams, who were arrested in July 1999 on charges of torching three Sacramento-area synagogues and killing a Redding-area gay couple.

According to an ADL report on Curtis, a call had been placed from the brothers' Palo Cedro home near Redding to one of Curtis' hot line numbers on March 17, 1999; six weeks later white supremacist literature emblazoned with another Curtis phone number was distributed in nearby schools in Redding.

The FBI said Curtis and his companions allegedly plastered the Chula Vista office of Democratic Rep. Bob Filner with white supremacist leaflets and anti-Semitic graffiti. Agents also accuse the group of shoving a snakeskin through the mail slot of the office, near San Diego.

The congressman reacted with concern for his staff. "You keep seeing swastikas, pictures of Hitler, slogans like 'Jews Must Die,'" Filner told the Los Angeles Times. "People get scared because they know people have guns."

Curtis' group also allegedly left racist paraphernalia and a prop hand grenade at the house of La Mesa Mayor Art Madrid. It is accused of defacing several San Diego-area synagogues and threatening a number of individuals by singling them out and inviting violence upon them in white supremacist publications.

Curtis claims his "privately controlled media" of Web sites, newsletters and telephone hot lines put him in contact with thousands "of the most radical racists in the world each week." He additionally sends out an e-mail chain that he says has as many as 800 subscribers.

At the core of Curtis' racist philosophy is a particularly virulent anti-Semitism. He refers to the U.S. government as the "ZOG" (Zionist-Occupied Government), and, according to the entry in his "Racist Glossary," defines Jews as "adherents to the cultural conspiracy that acts as a parasite to overthrow White cultural traditions and destroy the White Race."

In all of his publications, Curtis has shown a particular obsession with the ADL, and even targeted San Diego Regional Director Morris Casuto by name.

"I'm surprised he hasn't received a good dose of Aryan justice yet," wrote Curtis in a hotline message from February 1999. "But things have a tendency to come back at Jews with a vengeance when it does. It's only a matter of time."

Unlike many other white supremacists, Curtis does not deny the existence of the Holocaust, but instead revels in it.

"First, I don't care about the six million dead kikes," wrote Curtis. "I'd rather see a Web page that says if it didn't happen — it should."

If convicted, Curtis and DaSilva face a maximum of 40 years in prison. Morehouse and Holland face possible 10-year sentences, according to U.S. attorneys.

Calling Curtis a danger to the community who may attempt to flee, federal prosecutor Amalia Meza said she will request he be held without bail.

"People like the Williams brothers can have connections to the World Church of the Creator, Aryan Nation and information about a variety of different groups that could give them inspiration to commit violent acts," said Bernstein. "They don't have to attend any meetings or get any directives from the imperial wizard of the Klan or anything like that. They can take the actual initiative themselves, and I think Curtis feeds into that whole trend."

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is a columnist at Mission Local. He is also former editor-at-large at San Francisco Magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.